What can be done to safeguard against covert manipulations, and how
does one resist covert, unethical forms of hypnosis? The literature
suggests that three factors may be important in developing resistance:
Â§ fund of general information, and
Â§ specific knowledge about the psychology of manipulation.
First, becoming acquainted with the social psychology of manipulation
and attitude change will be an asset to understanding mind control. A
brief summary of selected research findings in this area suggests the
Â§ Manipulators often start with making minor requests. Getting
people to perform small and relatively unrisky acts now will make it
more likely that they will perform larger, more difficult and riskier
tasks later. Corollary: giving in now to "minor" requests that are
mildly uncomfortable makes it difficult to refuse more difficult and
unsettling requests in the future (Freedman, Carlsmith, & Sears, 1974,
Â§ Manipulators often seem unusually friendly, concerned and
sincere. When people perceive that someone likes them or cares about
them, they listen less critically to what is told to them and are also
less apt to think negatively about the communicator (Zajonc, 1968)
Corollary: "love bombing" (being made the center of attention and the
target of an unusual amount of praise, affection, etc.) makes it hard
to disagree or resist.
Â§ Manipulators do not immediately ask for agreement, they ask
people to "try it" with an "open mind." Getting people to behave in a
manner that is somewhat contrary to their current belief system will
often result in changed attitudes (Deutsch & Krauss, 1965; Festinger &
Carlsmith, 1968). That is, acting on requests to "try it before you
reject it" and assurances that "you can disagree with what you are
doing even as you do it" often leads to changes in belief systems,
especially if the subject is not overtly rewarded (e.g., by being
paid) for performing the new behavior.
Â§ Manipulators use group pressure.
It is difficult, especially
over long periods of time, to be the only one in a group to disagree
(Jones & Gerard, 1967, pp. 331-386). It can be painful to feel
rejected or different, and sometimes even more painful to think of
oneself as someone who has trouble tolerating rejection. Hence, people
conform but are not always willing to admit to themselves that they
are conforming (i.e., responding to group pressure). People
rationalize instead, and claim it was their "free choice" to change.
Â§ Manipulators do not make things easy. People actually place
more value on their actions if the task to be performed is somewhat
unpleasant or difficult, even if it did not need to be unpleasant or
difficult (Festinger, 1957). Corollary: making a task artificially
"tough" typically makes it appear more meaningful and important than
it may in fact be.
Having a specific knowledge of experimental/theoretical as well as
practical hypnosis is also important to resistance. What are the
implications of role taking in hypnosis, for example? This theory
suggests that, by "pretending" to be in hypnosis, people can in fact
become more suggestible and open to influence. Research on classical
and "nonclassical" (e.g., Ericksonian) forms of hypnosis suggests the
Â§ It is possible to be hypnotized without being aware of the
induction process. Most hypnotic phenomena, including carrying out
posthypnotic suggestions, have been produced in subjects who were not
aware of being in hypnosis (Erickson, Rossi, & Rossi, 1976).
Â§ Hypnosis begins with a shift in attention (Hilgard, 1968).
Attention is normally motile. That is, it is dynamic and is relatively
freely focused on a variety of events within a large perceptual field;
it moves back and forth between the external (e.g., actions and events
"outside" the self) and the internal (e.g., thoughts and feelings).
Trance is a state that involves relatively focused, fixed or immotile
attention. Corollary: anyone or anything that results in decreased
motility of attention is highly likely to induce an altered state of
consciousness ("trance") whether or not it is labeled "hypnosis."
Â§ The language of hypnosis is marked by vagueness,
overgeneralizations, metaphors and abstractions. Classical inductions
are not the only way to "talk hypnosis"
(although they can be found in
many "meditation" techniques not overtly labeled as hypnosis).
Nonclassical inductions use "normal" conversation and storytelling,
often directed at more than one representational system (e.g., sight,
sound and touch) to shift attention, in part by activating the
subject's tendency to search within himâ€” or herself in order to find
ways of relating what is being said now to experiences in the past
(Bandler & Grinder, 1975). Corollary: words that sound "deep" or
meaningful but feel confusing (and/or strangely calming) can induce
trance outside the subject's awareness.
Â§ In trance, memories, fantasies, feelings and thoughts are
often experienced more vividly and intensely than they are in the
normal "waking" state (Hilgard, 1981). If a person is unaware of being
in trance, or is unfamiliar or unconvinced of the phenomenon of
hypnotic enhancement of perception, fantasy and suggestibility, then
that person is likely to attribute the vividness and intensity of the
trance experience to some special characteristic of the message and/or
communicator. That is, the person links his/her feelings of intensity
with what has been said or who has said it, not with how (i.e.,
hypnotically) it was said. The message is therefore experienced as
"more real" or "more true" than other messages, and the communicator
of the message is endowed with extraordinary (or even supernatural)
characteristics or skills.
Â§ Hypnosis involves powerful transference. The induction
process involves establishing and utilizing rapport, and hypnosis is
perhaps first and foremost an interpersonal process (Fromm, 1979).
Most subjects, after being hypnotized, feel closer, more trusting, and
more positively about their operator than before. It is always more
difficult to objectively assess someone (or what that someone says)
after a powerful transference relationship has developed.
Â§ Hypnosis involves the suspension of "normal" logic. Trance
logic is characterized by, among other things, lack of criticalness
and the ability to hold two contradictory beliefs as true without one
canceling out the other (Orne, 1959). Thus, in trance one can have the
sensation of cold and still be aware of being seated in a warm, heated
room. Corollary: in trance, people can accept notions or ideas that
they would otherwise reject because they contradict other beliefs
known to be based in reality. For example, the members of one
Hindu-based cult believe that the space program is a hoax and yet may
listen to and accept weather reports based on satellite pictures.
One's fund of general information (e.g., philosophy, comparative
religion and history) can be vital in resisting manipulation. Perhaps
more important, however, is an awareness of the limits of one's
knowledge base, and a willingness to add knowledge when one is unsure
of the validity of what is being said. For example, a new form of
so-called psychotherapy might claim to be "the modern science of
mental health." What makes a discipline a "science?" In part, it is
the acceptance and utilization of a very specific method of inquiry
that has uniform steps for positing hypotheses and validating them.
What are these steps? When these steps are not followed, what risks to
validity are usually encountered? What is the "scientific method?" If
uncertain, one should seek the answers to these questions before
accepting any claim as being "scientific." Similarly, groups or
individuals may claim that their beliefs and/or practices are based on
scriptural passages, history, research or other literature with which
one is unfamiliar; before accepting anything else said, it is wise to
check these references for their accuracy. In addition, the following
steps might be helpful:
Â§ "Paraphrase other peoples' thoughts both aloud and to
yourself to see if you're understanding clearly." Dr. Zimbardo and his
associate, Susan Andersen, recommend that if a message, book or
lecture is difficult to understand, repeating the central points in
one's own words might help (Andersen & Zimbardo, 1980). Ask questions.
If the answer is equally or more puzzling, a mental "beware" alarm
should sound. The same alarm should go off if the answer is something
like "well, you will understand more later" or "of course you can't
understand now, you're too [nonspiritual, unenlightened, intellectual,
ignorant, materialistic, rigid, unaware, unconnected with your
Â§ Do not relate personal experiences, thoughts or feelings, or
make any kind of confession that may be harmful should the information
be released, Anderson and Zimbardo (1980) warn. Confidentiality is not
automatic: nonlicensed/noncredentialed therapists and their clients
may not come under the protection of state doctor-patient
confidentiality laws. Groups or individuals that pressure people to
reveal personal information may be acting unethically.
Â§ Put off any and all decisions until after the group
experience is over, and then decide only after obtaining other
information or consulting with trusted confidants.
Â§ Outside interests and social contacts are vital, state
Zimbardo and Anderson, and any group that makes an overt or subtle
appeal to sever these bonds should be rejected. These outside sources
are usually instrumental in providing reality-oriented feedback, and
in helping to maintain a sense of personal continuity (i.e., a sense
of knowing "where I came from").
Â§ Any group or individual that arouses guilt to an
uncomfortable level should be carefully checked out and probably
Â§ Have at least one good friend who is a "natural born"
skeptic or critic. Or, if in a possible mind control situation
already, seek out known "doubters" within that group. Put off feeling
guilty about doubts for a day or two; discuss doubts now.
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